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Organizing Youth Community Responders on Climate Change

By:Emmanuel C. Roldan

 (Published at SunStar Davao, Weekend Edition, 03 Mar 2013)


MARIO Bantilan, an informal settler living at the bank of the Davao River along Jade Valley Subdivision, Barangay Tigatto was almost in tears as he narrated how he and his family almost died when the river overflew in January.  “My family and I were awakened from deep slumber by the sudden upsurge of water from the river that swallowed our house at lightning speed”, he said in the vernacular pointing on a muddy space where his shanty once stood. All their belongings and working tools were carried by the rushing water. “Maayo na lang kay nakabalhin dayon mi sa akong asawa ug mga bata sa taas nga bahin kay maanod unta mi sa sapa” (It was fortunate and timely that we immediately transferred to higher grounds or else we would end up in the river), he said. 


Bantilan together with his wife and two small children built a small house in what is considered by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) as danger zone sometime in 2010 when he got a job as “gravador” of a sand and gravel business of his friend. “We came here in the city after our farm was devastated also by flood in Kapalong, Davao del Norte”, he continued. They escaped from the rush and was rescued by a team of 911 operatives and taken to the nearby Davao Maritime Merchant Academy (DMMA) gym.


Bantilan is among the hundreds of families who are left homeless and devastated due to climate change in the city.  Davao region is not anymore typhoon free. Typhoons Pablo in December 2012 and Cresing that happened weeks ago prove that the region is now within the so-called “typhoon path” in the country.  Whereas decades ago, the said path was somewhere between Samar and Leyte, and sometimes in Northern Surigao, now it reaches as far as Sarangani in the south.


DART beginnings


This reality prompted the Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team Foundation, Inc., (DART) whose 18 years of experience in emergency rescue, mitigation and preparedness  in various parts of the country, to renew its mission of building the capacity of the vulnerable communities and responding to emergencies.  Inspired by its vision of creating a safer community through service-oriented responders, DART has focused on the youth as second liners of its services for the people.


DART finds its roots in mid 1990s when the need to integrate and coordinate all efforts on disaster response and mitigation of the Davao Disaster Coordinating Council (DDCC) and non-governmental and civil society groups was more felt.  The government had the mandate, facilities and resources to undertake an effective and efficient emergency response effort but lacked dedicated, trained and competent workforce on the ground. DART volunteers came in to fill the gap.   


Organized on October 02, 1994 right after the completion of the specialized skills training on Mountain Search and Rescue (MOSAR), a government sponsored training in cooperation with the Bravo Company of the 75th Infantry Battalion, 6th Infantry (Kampilan) Division of the Philippine Army.  Among the 35 graduates of this training were from the DCDCC, City Mayor’s Office, City Administrator’s Office, Rainbow Citizens’ Patrol, Davao Volunteer Fire Brigade, Knight Hawk Foundation Inc. and the RECON Action Team. They were the founding members of DART.



Community Responders


Driven by their strong desire to be of service to the people, DART invited civic leaders and business groups to be their partners in building the capacity of the most vulnerable communities in the city. These communities are situated along natural water ways such as creeks and rivers, shorelines and those in landslide-prone areas. The aim is to organize their community responders during disasters and calamities.  One of those who first responded is the JIB Foundation, Inc.,  The foundation organized several youth organizations in District 2 and sponsored a two-day orientation on emergency response and training on first aid last February 4-6, 2013 at Camp Alano, Toril, this city. 


More than 40 youth-volunteers from 11 barangays joined the training that was facilitated by DART.  “We are selecting at least 10 most active and competent graduates of this orientation program for our higher volunteer courses”, said Jonathan Banez, DART founder, during the closing ceremony of the program.  They have also elected their interim set of officers to make sure that their plans are put in motion. These are Darweza Radjab (Overall Team Leader), Jun Mark Toliao (Asst. TL), Romel Largo (Secretary), Mark Alvarez (Treasurer) and Ma. Fatima Dacillo (Auditor). 


Joji Ilagan-Bian, chairperson of JIB Foundation said she sees the need to get the youth’s involvement in mitigating the ill effects of climate change because of their energy and creativity. “We have the obligation to protect the future of our children by protecting our environment in District 2 which is always in constant threat of floods especially those living near the Davao River and coastlines in the lowland, and landslides and erosion in mountainous areas in the upland of Paquibato,” Bian said.


Action Plan


According to DART, Community Youth Responders may not be at the frontline during calamities until they have finished all the proficiency courses required by their group.  Nonetheless, the responders can help in monitoring the rescue operations, tending traffic and flow of people, taking records and documentations, and taking care of supplies during operations.  They can also help in the communications and act on minor injuries that needed no further medical attention.


The youth responders in District 2, aside from doing voluntary work for DART are also planning their own environmental projects like mangrove planting in the shorelines of Agdao, Sasa, Panacan and Bunawan and bamboo planting along the banks of Davao River.  “Everything is still in the drawing board and the success of our work depends on the dedication of our members, Darweza Radjab, interim president said.




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